John Mountney (right) celebrates winning the SSE Airtricity League title last month. Morgan Treacy/INPHO
show me your medals

'You can't take any medal for granted. There are players that go their whole career without getting to a cup final'

Now in his seventh season at Oriel Park, John Mountney looks ahead to Dundalk’s FAI Cup final against Cork City later today.

JOHN MOUNTNEY IS almost part of the furniture at Dundalk now. Coming to the end of his seventh season at the club and having just signed a new two-year deal which will keep him at Oriel Park until the end of 2021, he has been an ever-present throughout the club’s greatest ever era.

Going from Mervue United, to Athlone Town to joining the late Sean McCaffrey’s Dundalk back in 2012, the Mayo man has since enjoyed four SSE Airtricity League titles, one FAI Cup, a President’s Cup and a Leinster Senior Cup.

He was also there for their magical journey to the group stages of the Europa League, battling against AZ Alkmaar and Zenit St Petersburg during a 2016 campaign which lives long in the memory of all Lilywhites supporters.

John Mountney and Conor Davies The 25-year-old in action against UCD in the FAI Cup semi-finals. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

He knows that success is earned, with Dundalk by no means having their titles handed to them on a silver platter. Mountney fought alongside his team-mates against relegation in 2012, when Dundalk’s future seemed bleakly uncertain both on and off the pitch.

The club have went from the brink of extinction to four league titles in five seasons, later today looking to secure their second double in the space of four seasons.

Rivals Cork City stand in their way at the Aviva Stadium this afternoon. But Mountney is assured that another medal around his neck would be as sweet as any that have come before it, if his side were to come out on top.

“The FAI Cup final is massive,” he says speaking to The42. You can’t take any trophy or any medal you get for granted because there are some brilliant players that go through their whole career without getting to a single cup final, let alone win one.

John Mountney The Mayo native pictured with the FAI Cup at Oriel Park. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

“You have to really appreciate everything you win and to be involved on a day like this — every other team in the league and every other player will be watching, wishing they were involved. So you can’t take it for granted and our plan will be to go there and do the business.”

Despite all their Premier Division success, Dundalk have lost back-to-back FAI Cup finals. A 121st minute winner from Sean Maguire condemned the Lilywhites in 2016, before a dramatic penalty shoot-out saw Cork also come out on top 12 months ago.

Obviously they won the league and the cup last year and we were right in behind them in second place,” Mountney says. “Then the year before, it was us on top and them behind us and the two titles before that in 2014 and 2015 it was the exact same again.”

Dundalk and Cork have made it to the last four consecutive cup finals at the Aviva Stadium, with each and every one so far going to extra-time and no more than one goal — or spot-kicks — deciding the winner.

John Mountney with Ridgeciano Haps Mountney in action for Dundalk against AZ Alkmaar in the group stages of the Europa League. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“There has been a competitive edge between the two of us,” the midfield adds. “So the cup final will lead to a good game again. It’s always a tight game. It starts off high-energy and there’s a lot of early pressing and pressure on the ball everywhere round the pitch.

That’s just the way it’s fallen, but of course this year we’ll be trying to score as early as we can and, like that, if either team scores early the game opens up and it’ll be a better spectacle.

“We know that you can’t get caught up in the occasion. It’s a great day, you’re playing in your national stadium in front of 20,000-30,000 people, so you can’t get caught up in that and our focus has just been on our form as of late.

“We’ll just be worrying about ourselves, trying to get the ball down and play the football that we have been all year. We’ll be hoping to get the job done and win the game in the 90 minutes. I’m sure Cork’s mentality will be the same.

Danny Kane and John Mountney Cork City have beaten Dundalk in the last two FAI Cup finals at Landsdowne Road. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“They’ll be wanting to win it in the 90 minutes too, so I’m sure it’ll be a very competitive game again, just like every other year.”

Last month the 25-year-old agreed that new two-year deal which will keep him at the club for his eighth and ninth seasons. The midfielder enjoyed less first-team football this season than he has before, with players like Michael Duffy, Dylan Connolly and Patrick McEleney in supreme form.

However, he says he was more than delighted to agree a new contract to try and help Dundalk reach even greater heights than the ones he has been an integral cog in over the last seven years since arriving in 2012.

The club’s ambitions are winning the league every single year, he says, with some supporters now hopeful that reaching the group stages of the Europa League or Champions League could be within reach in the near future with the backing of new American owners Peak6, who also own shares in Premier League side Bournemouth.

John Mountney and Ronan Murray celebrate with the trophy Mountney pictured with Ronan Murray after lifting the SSE Airtricity League title at Oriel Park. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“This has been my seventh season at the club and it’s been unbelievable to be part of a team that have achieved what we have,” reflects Mountney. “To be in a position where I was offered a new two-year contract was great. I was delighted to be able to sign.

The club has jumped leaps and bounds over the years. The first year that me and Chris Shields were here we were just avoiding relegation and then the second year, [when Stephen Kenny came in], we were challenging for the league and finished second.

“Since 2013 we’ve gone on to win four titles in five years, an FAI Cup and played in the group stages of the Europa League. It’s been just unbelievable and obviously with the changing of the ownership it really has grown the club. Hopefully it will continue to do so in the years ahead.” 

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